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  1. #226
    >:|Angry Beaver|:< Fung Koo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by RAD View Post
    And to reiterate: cultures don't have rights. The idea that an individual should exist for the purpose of spreading or perpetuating a culture is - for me - disgusting. And as ridiculous as the notion that cultures shouldn't grow or change.
    Can you expand on this? On a surface level reading, I can think of several issues that make the above statements powerfully contradictory (like: how do you rectify the problem that "individual rights" is, itself, a cultural value that you wish to promote? are you disgusted with yourself? or, how does a culture change if the individuals participating in said culture do not work to promote their version of that culture and thereby modify the whole through their individual contributions? is that not what democracy is all about? In other words, how does culture change without the promotion of that culture? And, how does the melting pot work if there is not cultural promotion within the melting pot? and, where does foreign policy come from? Etc...)

    If by 'toxic' you mean that folks wouldn't want to live by said culture, then they shouldn't have to
    Except for (presumably) individual rights.

  2. #227
    Ah, sorry for the delay, again. Lack of time and when I get the time I don't have the energy.

    I assume from previous comments you've made that you would then support removing both the Christian and Judaic extra-judicial courts as well.

    Yep, but I'll concentrate on sharia for now since the others are (comparitively) harmless and secularization has done a lot to pull their fangs.

    how do we decide if those needs are valid?

    That's a tricky question and I'd have to think about it more, with more specific examples, but my gut says no. Or at least, they'd have to compromise their dogma. If the Boy Scouts refuse to take in gays and atheists, for example, then they shouldn't get a dime of public money.

    How do we imbue someone with the right to even make that decision?

    Offhand, I'd say use lots of transparency and an appeals process.

    You've stated that you support enforcement of the UDHR

    Not in its current form.

    http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion...s-1517789.html

    Freedom, use it or lose it.

    But back on track:

    this introduces still further conundrums. Are we going to dictate where people can and cannot live? Is there a limit to how many similar types of people can live side by side? Or what church they can go to? What rallies they can attend? Or who can lead them?

    I was thinking more along the line of the removal of force and deciet, encouragement to integrate, and the awareness of viable options other than the culture in question.

    People can belong to any in-group they want. If I see a guy with a car or shirt pasted with slogans along the line of Jesus is Lord so turn or burn! I won't mind. I actually prefer it when individuals choose to put their ideologies on display, so I know who I want to avoid (other than to argue with).

    What is the limit on "immigrant" status -- one generation? two? nine?

    The minute their feet touch the soil as far as I'm concerned, provided they want to be a part of their new country. For example, if an American chose to foreswear his allegiance to the USA and join the Taliban, I would treat him as such.

    I can't say that I've ever seen any evidence of this fear leading to silence.

    That would be because they're silent. Try publishing a cartoon critical of Muhammed in Europe. Try even mentioning Islam in any sort of political debate. They've even yanked video games off the shelves because the music carries a Koranic verse or two.

    Islam should be open to the same criticism, artistic commentary, or parody and mockery as Christianity or any other belief system/ideology.

    I'm sorry to hear friend's troubles. It seems to me those whispering folks were cowards who are picking on her because she doesn't seem intimidating. If she wants to wear the head-scarf, that's her choice (see the turn or burn comment above). I won't say a word to her, though I personally believe the head scarf is a symbol of oppression.

    But she's wearing it by her own choice. Sounds like she's adopted the most basic secular value: they're her beliefs. That is, the beliefs belong to her. She doesn't belong to them.

    Thats the cultural value I promote.

    Secondary readings

    Are you going to tell me the life and beliefs of Muhammed, recognized as the premiere role model for Muslims (those who submit), are secondary? That nowhere is warfare against unbelievers and death to those who leave the faith mandated?

    Then I have to wonder -- how can you even give it lip service if you know the dangers and contradictions of the belief itself? Isn't that patently foolish?

    No, it's a moral compass. It's the ground I can stand on so that I can declare this is right and that is wrong according to the values I hold.

    You want Utopia

    Not even close. I want to help hold off the Collapse long enough to leave the next generations something to work with.

    And oftentimes, I believe even that's too lofty an ambition.

  3. #228
    Oh, almost forgot:

    are you disgusted with yourself?

    Frequently. For a variety of reasons.

  4. #229
    >:|Angry Beaver|:< Fung Koo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by RAD View Post
    Ah, sorry for the delay, again. Lack of time and when I get the time I don't have the energy.
    No worries, I ran out of steam a bit too

    I'll concentrate on sharia for now since the others are (comparitively) harmless and secularization has done a lot to pull their fangs.
    Personally I think if we yank the fangs of one, we should yank the fangs of all. Much like the French have tried to do. (Note: tried).

    If the Boy Scouts refuse to take in gays and atheists, for example, then they shouldn't get a dime of public money.
    I agree. Institutional discriminatory behaviour -- in an open multicultural society -- should preclude public funding. Let's be intolerant of intolerance

    This is why I say if we yank one, we have to yank all. If the government itself engages in discriminatory behaviour, it has no platform from which to criticize discriminatory behaviour.

    Interesting read. I've never been very sure about the UN. This only makes me less so. We'll have to see how this all develops.

    But she's wearing it by her own choice. Sounds like she's adopted the most basic secular value: they're her beliefs. That is, the beliefs belong to her. She doesn't belong to them.

    Thats the cultural value I promote.
    This makes your overall opinion on the organization of the world make a lot more sense to me. I see the ideal a little more clearly. I do see a huge tension between the establishment of groups and their recruiting practices, though. I'm not sure how such a system could be maintained, where all aspects of group membership are voluntary and individual. Seems we're forgetting the basic issue of time.

    Does this extend to voluntary membership within the larger in-group of "Citizenship"? I didn't choose to be Canadian, I was just born into it. Membership for me is not really voluntary. So if I choose to renounce my membership, but am not accepted by another country as a Citizen, what happens to me? And is there a difference between being born into a certain status and the pageantry of accepting that status? I'm thinking of something akin to a Catholic Confirmation service -- reinforcing that which wasn't truly chosen in the first place. Or do we impose Amish-style rumspringa on the children of Canada, and force them to leave so that they must make the choice to return?

    I appreciate the ideal here, but practically I'm not sure how it could work as a totalized system. It assumes a socialization vacuum that I suspect is unachievable. Practically, history tells us that this results in State-run schools where we attempt to separate kids from all secular ideologies and instead imbue them with the State's ideals.

    Are you going to tell me the life and beliefs of Muhammed, recognized as the premiere role model for Muslims (those who submit), are secondary? That nowhere is warfare against unbelievers and death to those who leave the faith mandated?
    There is text in the primary source that has been interpreted to mean myriad things, amongst those is the current perversion of fatwah, shariah, jihad, etc. Those interpretations are derived by denominational-type readings. Sects within overall group. Secondary sources. I grant that there is some inflammatory text in the primary source that is likely to lead to certain interpretations, but this is informed largely by the surrounding culture and reinforced by actions committed by others that are perceived as against the reading. And as you point out, forces are acting to try to prevent critical reasoning of the source text. Opposition begets opposition.

    Like with any book -- fiction, scripture, or otherwise -- we have to remember that extreme interpretations will always falter when met with unanticipated results. When we defy expectation, and act with patience and understanding, vitriol loses its poison. It is a far easier task to make vehemence look silly than it is to meet it with still more vehemence. Hand 'em enough rope...

    I propose we encourage a policy of passive manipulation. Let's help them to look like the insanity they represent. The dissonance alone should cause the issue to turn in on itself.

    No, it's a moral compass. It's the ground I can stand on so that I can declare this is right and that is wrong according to the values I hold.
    Fair enough -- this I can get on board with. Any sufficiently designed system will deliberately embed apparent contradictions into the ideal, thereby requiring participation by Centrists to maintain the contradiction, and thereby exposing the extremist views as such. Extremists thus end up teeter-tottering on the Centrist fulcrum, and balance is thus achieved.

  5. #230
    GemQuest Moderator Gary Wassner's Avatar
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    It is a far easier task to make vehemence look silly than it is to meet it with still more vehemence. Hand 'em enough rope...

    I suppose that depends upon the culture or state in which such vehemence is proclaimed. Caricatures of Hitler were quite common in 1935

    "On display at Berlin’s Deutsches His*toriches Museum’s I.M. Pei Building through January 4, 2009, “Arthur Szyk—Drawing Against National Social*ism and Te*rror” (011-49-30-20304-750; www.dhm.de) in*cludes 200 works by one of the world’s greatest modern illustrators. It is art with a lesson: Szyk (pronounced Shick), who was born in Poland and came to the United States in 1940, spent most of his career using his illustrations as a way to fight the enemy—from members of the Nazi party and their Japanese allies to racists in America. Today, his images confront Ger*mans with how they were seen by others during World War II."

    Didn't do much good, did it?

  6. #231
    Would be writer? Sure. Davis Ashura's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fung Koo View Post
    There is text in the primary source that has been interpreted to mean myriad things, amongst those is the current perversion of fatwah, shariah, jihad, etc. Those interpretations are derived by denominational-type readings. Sects within overall group. Secondary sources. I grant that there is some inflammatory text in the primary source that is likely to lead to certain interpretations, but this is informed largely by the surrounding culture and reinforced by actions committed by others that are perceived as against the reading. And as you point out, forces are acting to try to prevent critical reasoning of the source text. Opposition begets opposition.

    Like with any book -- fiction, scripture, or otherwise -- we have to remember that extreme interpretations will always falter when met with unanticipated results. When we defy expectation, and act with patience and understanding, vitriol loses its poison. It is a far easier task to make vehemence look silly than it is to meet it with still more vehemence. Hand 'em enough rope...
    That's what I don't know: are the violent interpretations extreme. Certainly, one can obviously state that Muslims want to live a life free of violence and internecine conflict, but what does that mean? We want to interpret it to mean that, ultimately, their desires and ours are consistent. Is that true, or is it our wishful thinking? In other words, is there a truly liberal strain of Islam that is dominant in most Islamic countries that we don't recognize because of the salacious media coverage of radical Islam? The evidence doesn't support that hope right now. If it did, then we should definitely be seeing critical texts on the Koran, trying to determine when the book was written, who put it together, the likelihood that the events that took place happened the way it was described ie the historical veracity of the text. I imagine if someone were foolish enough to publish such a work, they would shortly be dead. I hope for a liberal strain of Islam to become ascendant, but I haven't seen one yet. If I am ignorant in this, please feel free to learn me.

  7. #232
    >:|Angry Beaver|:< Fung Koo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gary Wassner View Post
    Didn't do much good, did it?
    C'mon, this argument is absolutely specious. A strawman of the very worst kind. To suggest that political cartoons about Hitler failed to prevent the Holocaust is to blatantly disregard established historical fact, and dramatically overemphasize the potential importance of one example in the overall media history of an extremely complicated issue.

    And, these are barely even comparable situations. Are you really going to compare the entirety of Islam's approach to Islam to Hitler's approach to Germany? Isn't that just outright sensationalism?

    And do you really want to get into a debate about the efficacy of art as an innoculative force against injustice? About "what good" art is?

    The horror of the holocaust is not that millions were killed because of hate. It's that they were killed for little more reason than efficiency.

    Hate we can deal with, and hate is what we're experiencing now. It's a cycle we can break. How long before the open air prison of Gaza becomes the next locus of holocaust? Inflammatory and vehement rhetoric will only work to fuel the hate and continually systematize the issue. And when that happens, efficiency is an ever closer excuse.

    "Let's just kill them all and be done with it." Right?


  8. #233
    GemQuest Moderator Gary Wassner's Avatar
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    Fung, you've got some real anger issues!

    I was simply replying to your comment about resistance and different forms of protest. What bug is up your butt?

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    >:|Angry Beaver|:< Fung Koo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gary Wassner View Post
    Fung, you've got some real anger issues!

    I was simply replying to your comment about resistance and different forms of protest. What bug is up your butt?
    There's some background to why your post irked me. The biggest is that I'm so bloody tired of the Hitler/Nazi comparisons. The current situation in our relationship to Islam-at-Large is hardly comparable. It seems awfully insensitive to the memory of those who experienced that level of horror to suggest that what's going on right now is similar. Sure, there's a handful of surface level similarities, but it seems like an entirely empty comparison that serves only a sensationalist goal of distracting us.

    I don't think you intended to derail the conversation, but interjecting this sort of Nazi reference is the precisely the type of argumentative ploy used by media pundits and spin-masters to dissemble rational, intelligent discourse.

    You also didn't provide any context to the example you provided. An exhibition of one man's political cartoons, where they've all been put together, may be impactful to the modern viewer. But only because we have the luxury of hindsight, and can experience them all as a condensed unit. You're suggesting ineffectualness, yet the historical context is that these all appeared separately, and there were also active campaigns promoting the opposite view. As such, there are two major factors that make an assessment of "didn't do any good" outright impossible:

    1) Political Cartoons are, by their very nature, exaggerations. They are impressions of their subject only, deliberately shaded, and thereby taken with a grain of salt by most readers. You can't quantify what the day-to-day reactions of the average reader was over the decade or so they were published -- and one-at-a-time at that. We don't know what bracketed them. We don't know the editorials that appeared beside them, or the other cartoons that were presented in the following and preceding days. They didn't exist in a vacuum. We don't have the context to understand the shape that the exaggeration might have taken in any of the various publications where these might have appeared.

    2) Nazi Germany was fascist, and employed a full-on system of propaganda and media control. Even if these were read by those under the thumb of Nazi Germany, there were active counter-campaigns. I imagine that most German citizens would not have even seen these -- and they were the only people who could have deposed Hitler before the war, if they had even wanted to (let's not forget how immensely popular he was domestically for most of his career).

    So that leaves me wondering what you referring to to judge them ineffective. Ineffective to whom? In what context? Are you suggesting they didn't do any good because the corresponding propaganda successfully neutralized them? Are you intentionally or accidentally applauding the Axis?

    But the part that really irritates me (not mad, just irritated!) is that I don't really need an answer to the above. All that introducing this example can have achieved is derailing the conversation. Instead we come back to trying to understand the holocaust for the millionth time.

    Sure, it might have been easier to just ignore it. But when have I ever displayed an ability to let something go...?

    Anyway, that's the bug in my butt. At this moment, anyway.

  10. #235
    Just Another Philistine Hereford Eye's Avatar
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    If it did, then we should definitely be seeing critical texts on the Koran, trying to determine when the book was written, who put it together, the likelihood that the events that took place happened the way it was described ie the historical veracity of the text.
    http://www.amazon.com/History-God-00...4457496&sr=1-1
    http://www.amazon.com/Battle-God-Kar...4457496&sr=1-5
    http://www.amazon.com/Islam-History-...4457496&sr=1-6
    http://www.amazon.com/Muhammad-Biogr...457626&sr=1-10
    I'm not at home or I'd cite at least a half-dozen more in my library.

  11. #236
    GemQuest Moderator Gary Wassner's Avatar
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    Fung, I spent too many years studying Hitler's Europe and 19th century continental philosophy as a prelude to that to not use those times as examples of how blind hate got out of control in a civilized society.

    Praise for the Axis? What are you reading in my words? Simple facts. A society's conscience was neutralized. Everyone knew what was going on. Everyone knew. There was no effective resistance in Germany until near the end of the war.

    What would have been your suggestion to deal with those building sentiments in Germany in 1936?

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    >:|Angry Beaver|:< Fung Koo's Avatar
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    See, this is precisely what I meant that I didn't want to do... *sigh* Here goes anyway... longest post ever, I'm sure...

    Quote Originally Posted by Gary Wassner View Post
    Fung, I spent too many years studying Hitler's Europe and 19th century continental philosophy as a prelude to that to not use those times as examples of how blind hate got out of control in a civilized society.
    Might I suggest that this is the proverbial Philosophy Trap? That which we've studied the most, we overextend. Furthermore, that which we've studied most we've most deeply solidified our opinions about. Discrete pieces of information get categorized and sorted into a specific form that provide the "proper" interpretation. It's how us human folk understand everything, after all.

    And in my estimation of that time, I see very little in the way of uncontrolled hate. There was some hate, certainly, but by no means was it the majority of the rationale behind all that occurred. Control, rather, seems to the overriding issue. A belief that the world can be brought under control, and the subsequent descent into legalism and bureaucracy.

    Praise for the Axis? What are you reading in my words?
    You suggested that the cartoons didn't do much good. That means either they were sucky and ineffectual cartoons, or something else overrode them. Your statement below that the conscience of society was neutralized would lead to the conclusion that those actively trying to neutralize conscience succeeded.

    So if you're providing an example of failed protest to contradict the assertion that we need to subvert expectations in the Islamic world, then what is your actual objection? That protest is pointless because it meets opposition?

    Simple facts. A society's conscience was neutralized. Everyone knew what was going on. Everyone knew.
    From what I've learned, that is not true. Here's what I've learned, with some interpretation:

    No one can be said to have really known what was going on, because what was going on changed several times. The holocaust didn't just start with the registration of Jews and immediately graduate to death camps. There was a slow build up to the horror.

    First, there was the registration. Then, there was disenfranchisement and loss of the right to hold property. There were curfews and zones imposed, and when the rules were broken, the rules were enforced. It's little different than the job any police force would follow for any group of people deemed confined. Some objected, but all the pseudo-sciences of the time were working toward providing the definition of the world we all wanted. Racism was normal, and phrenology backed it up. Utilitarianism made it all make sense. Fascism was the political ideal throughout most of the world. In fact, it was more popular in England (and even more popular in Scotland) than in Germany and Italy.

    Recovering from WWI, the backbone of the emerging German economy was being built up based on this resulting cheap, easy slave labour. This caused tension between the enfranchised, free German citizens and the slave force of Jews. Slaves taking our jobs! This deepened the divide between the two. So then the work camps really got started. The cheap slave force got moved out of the urban centres to appease the angry citizens. Surprisingly few called for an end to the slavery. Off to the camps they were sent. Those in the camps weren't treated wonderfully by any stretch of the imagination, but this period of their existence was (as I understand it) comparatively decent to what came later. This is the part of Schindler's List we see. The prosperous time, when it was still possible to help the Jews escape. We're talking the better part of a decade here, and the whole country was prospering. There was plenty to go around. The slaves still got the short end of the stick, but the short end was considerably longer at that time than it would be in a few years.

    Then came the invasion of Poland. Out of isolation and rebuilding, the Nazi Germans emerged. Now, the role of the camps changed dramatically. With Germany at war, resources were shifted.

    If you were the doctor in charge of a ward of terminally ill patients, and your country goes to war, and that war gets bigger and bigger and drains more and more resources, is it moral to ask for food and medicine to keep the terminally ill alive when there's barely enough to feed everyone else? Should not that food go to your citizens? To your soldiers?

    It is this kind of ethical administrative decision that lead to the change from "work camps" to "concentration camps" -- other people needed the food, shelter, and medicine. The slaves would have to wait.

    For the German people, this all was occurring out of sight. Keeping the citizens happy is largely what moved the horror out of their line of sight in the first place. Images of the camps rarely appear in newspapers and magazines of that time. Out of sight, out of mind. By the time this change happened, most of the Jews and minorities left in Germany were accounted for. Those captured in Poland became prisoners of war (the traditional way we get slaves). Conveniently, the camp systems were already full of prisoners, so they got slotted into the work camps. This is a perfectly rational decision (supposing you grew up during that time and fell in line with the prevailing thought that had been developed and established as "normal").

    So you've got work camps full of slaves and prisoners. Of course, when you stop feeding your slaves, they have an alarming tendency to die. And then spread disease. But they're slaves, so you're not gonna waste your effort saving them. You need to recruit. Suddenly, the war must expand to feed the mode of production (ie -- the camps) to allow the war to expand.

    And suddenly, because the population of your camps is so large, they're dying at unmanageable rates. You need to keep the healthy ones at least functional until they die (remember: you don't care if they live in the end. they're not human. they're slaves), so you've got to find a way to get rid of the bodies. You don't want to use your slave labour force to work burial detail -- it'd occupy all their time and bring production to a halt.

    So you mechanize death. It's the only sensible, practical solution.

    But all of this is happening at the level of middle management. Those who ran the camps were given discretion to run their camps however would best keep production up. To date, there is no solid evidence that Hitler even knew or approved of the practices being put into place in the camps. His attentions were no doubt elsewhere. Plausible deniability, perhaps. This change from work camps to concentration camps happened solely for the purpose of keeping the system efficient and maintaining stability.

    Imagine the uproar if the citizens of Germany under the Nazis were told that their already-rationed food was being cut further to feed the starving slaves in the camps...

    Then we get into the middle of the war. Let's not forget that we had concentration camps, too, on our own soil. We didn't even blink an eye to it. Things start going sour for the Nazis. More and more of their slaves -- the ones that allowed them to make what advances they did -- are dying. Suddenly they've got a crisis on their hands. Now we're another year later and the end is looking nigh. You've got huge numbers of these slaves in absolutely terrible condition, so the word goes out (from Goebbels) to empty the camps. Those well enough to move are moved to the big camps. Those too weak are exterminated.

    Again, a decision of practicality. Then the Americans happen upon a camp, see the extent of the horror, and the Nazis responsible were what.... proud? Hell no. I think they mostly all saw the horror the moment that an outside pair of eyes really experienced it. Almost all of the photos of the camps come from Allied soldiers. Almost nothing has been recovered from the Nazi's own records. In part, I'm sure they didn't really showcase what was going on because inside they knew it was terrible. And the rest of it disappeared like we would shred any incriminating documents any other time we got into trouble. But mostly it's like getting fat -- you don't notice until someone points it out. You're just plain used to seeing yourself everyday.

    So with this outside point of view, they have two options -- bring them back up to health, or get rid of them. There's no food to be had, and its looking more and more likely that your boss is going to be killed. So I suspect the mass slaughter at the camps that characterized the latter portions of the war was as much out of compassion and guilt as it was out of hatred. And mostly it was just probably just easiest.

    And even then, very few German citizens had any real idea until the trials started years later. There was no infrastructure to disseminate the truth. People didn't want to believe it when they saw it.

    Anyway, that's what I learned about it. So I'm not sure where you get "Everyone knew what was going on. Everyone knew." What I learned was that people may have known bits and pieces, but there was nothing to string them together and give them truth until the Allies marched into the camps. Feel free to correct me if I'm wrong.

    There was no effective resistance in Germany until near the end of the war.
    The question then is was this a domestic movement against a tyrannical leader, plunging a once prosperous people into decline? Or was it moral outrage at the injustice of the holocaust? As far as I know, it was the former.

    What would have been your suggestion to deal with those building sentiments in Germany in 1936?
    In an ideal world, we should have stopped the Nazi's progress the moment they set foot outside Germany. That was the turning point where comparatively benign institutionalized racism became the holocaust. Still would've been horrifying, but by no means the same as what it became. We had all the knowledge we needed to work toward stopping them, from refugee tales to the threat they represented and the rhetoric they used. It's a shame we didn't react more strongly at the very beginning, when we should have.

    As to trying to prevent the whole situation from having happened at all...? I don't think you could have. You have to remember that racism, including antisemitism especially, was pretty much normal. If you didn't hate (or simply disregard) Jews and Blacks and Gays, you were pretty weird. To prevent that, you'd have to go back a long, long time (to, like, the beginning of time). And it's a special case, because we're talking about hatred for a people with no nation. It's much the same difficulty we're having today fighting terrorism. It's people we object to with no identifiable home.

    Also, I think it's improbable to suggest that it would have been possible to prevent it anyway -- nothing like this had ever happened before (as far as public memory was concerned). Now, we mention Hitler and His Nazis the very moment something threatening occurs. But we have nearly infinite range communications. We can spread an idea instantaneously. We can mostly all read. In 1936, Hitler's Nazis produced the first-ever strong enough television signal that we could all see it. Before that, there was no such means for mass dissemination of information, or even ideology.

    We're in a different age now. One where we can actually apply lessons learned form the past in a quick and efficient way. We can use the past to inoculate us against future horrors. We couldn't do that before.

    Which is why I don't think it's appropriate to lambaste early 20th century political cartoons as ineffective. They existed in a different reality -- one we can scarcely grasp. Illiteracy was way, way higher than it is now. They were circulated much, much slower. There was media control unlike anything we have today, including political, secular, and religious censorship. Contextual knowledge was minimal compared to the average level of information we all carry around about world events. The entire frame of reference to interpret the images into the reality we now know existed simply wasn't present.

    And on top of all that, the comparison today would be a political cartoon about Americans being run in a Canadian newspaper. Even today, would you really expect American domestic policy to be shaped by a Canadian political cartoon? Any foreign political cartoon?

  13. #238
    GemQuest Moderator Gary Wassner's Avatar
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    I'm Jewish. I lived in Germany and studied there. Everyone knew what was going on. It was impossible not to. You saw it daily. You saw the changes and you heard the rhetoric. Neighbors disappeared, professors lost their posts, doctors couldn't practice, workers couldn't work.

    I'm not saying I lived there during this. I'm not that old. But when I did live there I was going to the University and I rented a room from a woman whose husband died in the war fighting for the French. But each evening, as students, we'd congregate at a different family's house and sit all night and talk about the war, parents, grandparents, Altenazis and young, innocent kids.

    Everyone knew what was happening, and if they didn't, it was because they didn't want to.

    You are shocking me, Fung. Really and truly. The cruelty was amazing. It's unreal. And it's still hard for me to believe. Sure, it's happened in other times and other cultures. Even today, the genocide we've witnessed is beyond belief. But you have to resist. You have to rebel against cruelty. It's universal and it's identifiable.

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    >:|Angry Beaver|:< Fung Koo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gary Wassner View Post
    Everyone knew what was happening, and if they didn't, it was because they didn't want to.
    What I have learned -- and I'm trying to be as honest here as I can, that I've learned this, and I fully acknowledge that no singular assessment of history is ever the true one -- is that the majority of people were of a third sort. There aren't simply two options -- that you knew, or you chose not to know. Certainly many knew and chose to do nothing, and certainly many could have known if they had simply chosen to concentrate on it instead. But these -- in my understanding -- were the minority.

    My family is a bit of a Brady Bunch situation, so I grew up with 4 grandfathers (2 bio, 2 step) -- all of whom were involved in WWII as volunteers. My maternal grandfather was a paratrooper stationed in England. My paternal grandfather was infantry and took part in campaigns throughout Italy and Northern Africa. My step-maternal grandfather had just finished boot and was en route to England when the war ended. And my step-paternal grandfather was in the Engineering corps. He was involved in a rather large number of conflicts. He was part of the lead Engineers, and went into hot zones and built bridges and trenches and camps. He was part of the forces that first made way into Germany. And he was amongst the first Allied soldiers to walk into the concentration camps. And he stayed on and took part in the aftermath for a full year.

    It is mostly my step-paternal grandfather's stories that started my personal desire to understand what happened. His experience with the German people led him to believe that the vast majority were simply unaware. Not willfully ignorant. Just unaware.

    He told a story of walking with some of the people liberated from a camp down a road, shortly after the end of the war when those liberated were kept in the camps so that they could be fed and cared for as they got back up to strength. While on the walk, a German family that had lived only perhaps 20 or 30 miles down the road was traveling back to their home. They stopped. The father spoke some English and asked what was wrong with those frail, decrepit people, and if there was a plague going through the country side. He wanted to know if he should turn around and go back to the shelter. To protect his family from whatever had afflicted these people.

    He had no idea. None whatsoever. That, my grandfather said, was the moment when he understood the full immensity of the horror. These people had no idea. When it was explained to them, they were too horrified to even cry.

    Through the rest of it, he described the shock of the German people as the news was spread. How people would, right in front of him, suddenly put 2 and 2 together and fall silent into shock, or faint, or cry. But mostly the response, he said, was this dead numbness.

    Now, I realize his first-hand experience is by no means the whole truth. But there is very little that I have discovered along the way that contradicts his basic assessment. People living in urban areas certainly knew more than those in the smaller outlying towns and villages, and the rural folk were the most ignorant of all. But even for those with the most knowledge, 2 and 2 didn't go together until later... when the truth came out, and allowed all of the people to glue together the bits and pieces of information that they had.

    You have to factor confirmation bias into your analysis. After you know, you can't un-know. Once its all been put together in your head, it will seem that you should have known all along. How can you explain that you didn't? Who would believe you? Whether the people were ignorant because they actively tried to be, or because their psychologies were simply defending the integrity of their sanity by refusing the add up the evidence, or because they really just didn't know -- no one can say that it was certainly ALL one way or ALL the other.

    Many people knew something, certainly. But what did they know? What did their friends know? Did those pieces add up to a whole picture? And how was it confirmed?

    It is one sort of leap of faith to believe in something kind and good without any real evidence. It is quite another to take the leap of faith to believe in such horror. The mind recoils from it, and assures us that it simply cannot be so. Denial is a powerful defense mechanism, and our minds do it to us all the time without our choosing it.

    And it's something different still to let your impression of your leader, who really was considered a great leader by many (he unified and rebuilt a broken country -- people once had faith in him the way many Americans have faith in Obama), melt away into the reality of the true horror.

    Consider children in homes of abuse. If we grow up and think of this as normal, our fundamental outlook on the world becomes specialized. Discrete. Dissociated. The abused frequently become abusers themselves -- not always out of hate; mostly it's this distorted "normalcy." Inculcated inhumanity.

    This isn't so black and white, Gary. I'm not denying that it was a horrible, horrible atrocity. But I find your interpretation of the horror overly simplistic. You focus on the hate, but what if the hate was merely a backdrop to the reality? A precursor to the inhuman system that followed?

    Would you consider the people of the USA who detest Islam as racists? Granted, the Americans aren't rounding them up into camps. But the Israeli's certainly are -- Gaza is a huge open air prison. Gazans are being treated very much the way the Jews once were. Rounded up, numbered, under curfew, disenfranchised, labeled as a destabilizing force to the righteousness of Israel. The excuse for Gaza is disturbingly similar in its rhetoric to the excuses that led to the holocaust. These decision are pragmatic first, hateful somewhere in a distant memory. You would think the Jews would be hypersensitive to this. Do you think its out of hate? Or is to protect an ideal? Or is it simply to maintain the system? Do you think the Israeli citizens all know the horror they're imposing and choose to be ignorant of it?

    It's just not as simple as you're making it out to be. It's too easy to just blame them all, label them for their hate, lambaste them as willfully complicit accessories to genocide. Call them cruel. I'd suggest that it's easy to do so because that is your hate, your confusion, your hurt.

    It's a much, much more frightening prospect to me that all this could have happened without the universal hate and cruelty you see. Cold and unemotional extermination is infinitely more frightening than hateful cruelty and spite. When its hate, it's human. When it's done absent of emotion, its a system -- Inhuman.

    Humanity would be infinitely preferable, believe me. Humanity we can deal with. We can have conversations about it, as humans. Rationalize it and try to understand it and ultimately cope with it until its gone. But it's far more frightening to me to imagine all of this as having happened just because. For no better reason than efficacy and pragmatism, to allow a failing system to cling to life on the backs of the forgotten others. This is almost impossible to understand. It's suffocating. Yet also sickeningly plausible.

    You are shocking me, Fung. Really and truly. The cruelty was amazing. It's unreal. And it's still hard for me to believe. Sure, it's happened in other times and other cultures. Even today, the genocide we've witnessed is beyond belief. But you have to resist. You have to rebel against cruelty. It's universal and it's identifiable.
    All I can ask you to consider is this:

    Between your conception of the holocaust and mine, is there room for both to exist and be parts of the truth? Does mine preclude yours?

    Yours certainly does not preclude mine. I understand and believe that there was much hate and cruelty. But at some point this hate and cruelty became normal, at which the virulence of that hatred becomes the inoculation against the perception of horror. This is the truly difficult part to understand. That, to me, is truly horrifying.

    And if your assertion of such universal hate and cruelty is the whole truth, on what grounds can you come to terms and offer forgiveness? Have you forgiven? How?

    And now I want to know: what are your thoughts on "The Reader"? Schlink's description of Germany's coming-to-terms seems more in line with my reasoning than yours. I may be confirming my own bias in seeing this interpretation, but "The Reader" rarely, if ever, references abject hatred or cruelty. Instead, it finds confusion and ignorance leading to the easy blame of a pointed finger. So, what are your thoughts on "The Reader"? Does it support your view?

  15. #240
    GemQuest Moderator Gary Wassner's Avatar
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    Anyone who read a magazine or listened to a radio broadcast heard the vtriol and couldn't mistake the comments for anything but what they were. Neighbors were dragged out of their homes. Jews wore arm bands! They were fired from their jobs, beaten in the streets, humiliated, harrassed. If some rural people didn't read the magazines or newspapers and didn't have any contact with many other people, then maybe they didn't know. But they studied Mein Kampf in the schools. Or at least their children did. Hitler Youth became more or less mandatory.

    No, I don't think there's room in your analysis for mine. They were not innocent. Not as individuals, not as a nation.

    No Jews were left out of this. There were no good Jews. Western fear today of Islamic extremists is relegated to just that: Extremists. Not people of Islamic faith. I live in NYC. I don't distinguish between people of different faiths and cultures. We all live together. If I saw some suspicious looking man lurking beneath a subway station track carrying a satchel and leaving it there unattended, I might be concerned. But suspicious doesn't translate to middle eastern looking. In fact, when I was in Jerusalem a few years ago I couldn't tell who was a Palestinian and who was an Israeli. I can't tell the difference here either.

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